Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Contact With Your Ex During And After Divorce

This guest post is contributed by David Williamson.
It’s hard enough these days to be one of the 50% of married couples who get divorced, but now in the digital age we have to worry about communicating with them through all different mediums, times, and places. The horror stories run rampant: Ex wives stalking husbands on Facebook, Ex-husbands tracking down new boyfriends on Twitter, the list goes on. To delve deeper into the topic we interview Mary, a divorcee of 3 years and self-described digital media fiend, to glean some insight into how she handles the burden of communicating with her ex husband.


Welcome Mary; tell us about your divorce.

It was hard. My ex husband and I were married for 25 years and had 3 children. He was a lifelong friend with my brother, which is how we met. It was kind of a fairy tale, actually - we married young, straight out of college, started successful careers, loved our children and had a vibrant marriage. Problems began about 20 years in as the kids were heading off to college and I became severely, clinically depressed. I should have exercised and taken control of my life, but instead turned to psychiatric assistance and was put on a galaxy of antidepressants. My husband began taking them too and our marriage began to crumble. I popped pills and went shopping, and he popped pills and found a mistress. In retrospect I don’t blame him; I was pretty awful, bankrupting the family and almost sinking his business. At the height of my addiction I initiated divorce proceedings. They encouraged me to seek real medical help to address my depression and thank God I had good legal counsel during those trying proceedings.

How did digital communications then factor into the equation following the divorce?

My job as a marketing and communications manager for a legal team had already forced me deep into the digital media and communications world. So when we began the divorce, it was a firestorm on Facebook. My family and kids were posting about it, my ex was posting about it, and I was posting about it. My ex was tweeting about it, badmouthing me to the world and my clients. My children were posting videos on Youtube and Vimeo about how they were feeling about the divorce. It was a HUGE mess - and humiliating to have one’s personal life floated out to the world like that. My advice for anyone getting a divorce is to discuss digital media with your ex and your children right off the bat. Don’t wait for everyone to start doing their own thing. Nip it in the bud with an agreement to not post anything personal about the proceedings at all, ever. It would have saved our family a lot of heartache.

What about more traditional forms of communication like texting, calling and emails? What role did those plays in your divorce?

It was painful. Sometimes a late reply to a text or even more telling, no reply, can mean far more than a tangible reply. My ex would sometimes take days to respond to my emails. They would be important, doctor appointments for the kids, etc. but he let me know loud and clear that he did not want to be in regular contact once the digital media firestorm hit. I would call him to schedule visits with the kids and my parents and he wouldn’t call me for days at a time. My advice is to communicate as little as possible in the beginning, then feel things out. He’s more comfortable responding now, 3 years late, but the first few years it was too fresh and painful. It was for me too, especially since he started dating my ex best friend.
Would your communication ever blow up into a fight? How did you deal with that in a positive manner?
Yes. It was difficult to talk the first 2 years without fighting. Everything is still so raw in those first few years. I mean, we had known each other since we were little kids and I had bankrupted the family and he was living with my best friend. It was a tough situation. We had a communications meeting one day via Skype - I suggest everyone do this - talk to your ex about the ways you both need to communicate in order to peaceably take care of pressing concerns that need to be dealt with. He needed me to refrain from making any mention of the divorce, or him through social media, and I needed him to never ever refer to my ex best friend or their current relationship. We follow these guidelines strictly and are able to communicate within them. It has made the whole thing much easier to handle.

Final words of advice regarding communication for people going through divorce?

It’s a paradox: you don’t want to communicate with your ex, in fact they’re probably the last person you want to talk to, but you have to. So take the positive step of establishing ground rules for the communication. If you don’t you’ll just hurt each other over and over again until you do, and that doesn’t help anyone.

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